Police chief gets 'target letter' from FBI, police powers to be removed

FBI target letter (Sunrise 7:30a)
Published: Dec. 20, 2016 at 2:55 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2016 at 6:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha will go on restricted duty after receiving a "target letter" from the FBI as part of an ongoing public corruption case.

Target letters are sent to the subjects of FBI probes to inform them that they are the "target" of an investigation and that their cooperation is being sought.

Sources say that Kealoha and several other officers received the letters in the days following the guilty plea of former police officer Niall Silva.

Silva, 52, pleaded guilty Friday to lying under oath as part of a conspiracy to frame a relative of Kealoha's wife, Katherine, a high-ranking deputy city prosecutor, in the theft of the mailbox from the Kealohas' home.

Silva was a detective in the Honolulu Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Unit in June 2013 when Katherine Kealoha called police to report her mailbox had been stolen from her Kahala home.

She later identified the suspect as her uncle, Gerard Puana, with whom she was involved in a family financial dispute over hundreds of thousands of dollars. She said she could tell it was Puana based on poor-quality surveillance video from the house security system.

The issuance of a target letter to HPD's chief comes more than a year after the FBI investigation into the Kealohas started.

HPD policy requires any officer who receives a target letter to notify the department's professional standards office.

The targets will have their police authority removed.

Kealoha's attorney, Myles Breiner, said the chief will restrict his own police authority, despite maintaining he has done nothing wrong and "looks forward to his vindication." He is expected to strip himself of his police powers on Tuesday, which could mean anything from going to work without wearing a uniform to being put on paid administrative leave. That decision will be left to the police department and police commission.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was also notified about the chief's letter on Monday, but it's not clear what steps he or others will take to select the next person who will run the department. Deputy Chief Marie McCauley was next in line, but she retired last month. Sources say Deputy Chief Cary Okimoto may be tapped to temporarily take over.

In addition to Kealoha, Officer Bobby Nguyen, a relative of the Kealohas, and Police Maj. Gordon Shiraishi have received FBI target letters.

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